A few weeks ago my best friend Color had some job training in Fuzhou and asked me to visit him. Always one for adventure I said why not, bought a ticket and 4 days later was on my way to see him.
Fuzhou is located in southern China, on the east coast. It’s not a huge town, and doesn’t have any major attractions, and yet it is the capital city of Fujian Province and known for it’s nice climate in winter (warm).
When I arrived I hopped in a cab and told the driver in Chinese “Wuyi Square” then gave him the specific address. I chose the hotel for the good location so I knew he must know it. He started babbling to me in rapid paced, heavily accented Mandarin. There was clearly a problem, yet I didn’t know what it was.
“Wuyi Park,” I said again. “Do you understand?”
“I understand,” he said. I repeated the address.
“I know it,” he said.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked. Then he spouted off a slew of unintelligible words. See, the thing is I could understand some of his Chinese. He already asked me where I was from, why I was in Fuzhou all the basic stuff. It was just this one infuriating thing I couldn’t understand.
Finally he told me to call Color to translate. So I did. They talked for a few minutes then he handed the phone back to me.
“He says Wuyi Square is too busy right now and traffic is too bad. So he wants to take you to a different hotel.” Cheeky bastard. I insisted that we go to the hotel I already booked and it turns out the traffic wasn’t bad at all. What a surprise.
So aside from that rocky start I had a great time. Admittedly, Fuzhou doesn’t have that many sights, but on my first night we went to a place called Sanfang Qixiang, or 3 lanes, 7 alleys. People still live there but it’s a historic neighborhood now, gussied up for tourists.
Wherever I go I like to try the local food (as long as it’s not spicy or seafood) and Sanfang Qixiang gave me the perfect opportunity. Especially since we had just eaten dinner and was now looking for desert.
We found a quaint desert shop and I got the local specialty, mashed hot taro with crushed peanuts, raisins and sesame seeds on top. The thing with all the deserts in this restaurant was they were put together with traditional ingredients to have health benefits as well as a unique taste. Mine did things such as warm the blood, help the eyes, etc.
I’ll be honest, the whole thing tasted a tad strange. Not bad, just…odd. Taro is like slightly sweet potato, not as sweet at a sweet potato, but a little sweet. The topping was delicious but hiding underneath the layer of taro was cold fruit, covered in a white sweet cream. Wasn’t such a big fan of that part.
The next day I met up with Color, and several of his co-workers at a local restaurant. While a large group of young chinese people talking quickly and loudly is too much for my humble chinese language skills to handle, all of them could speak some english. In fact, it’s a requirement for their job. So I had a good time meeting a lot of people, and eating some delicious food. Since they knew I was American, they tried to order a lot of beef and meat dishes, even though I tend to prefer the veggies.
Later that night we went out to a pedestrian street that was filled with bars, cafes, restaurants and some of the cutest little coffee shops I’ve seen in China. Some were outfitted like grandmas cottage in the woods, others sophisticated wine bars, other dingy little holes. If I was there longer I would have spent every afternoon there, sipping tea, writing in my journal.
We ended up spending the night with 4 chinese people, a mix of guys and girls and we played games and talked all night. There were a couple of foreigners at the bar and they hung out with us a little too. I danced with a Cuban and got to look at photos of a Spanish guys chinese fiancee.
The thing I like about being able to speak Chinese is just hanging out with people. Normally, as a foreigner and a native english speaker, I am treated as a VIP of sorts. People think I’m so smart because I speak English so well, and they all ask the same series of questions, can you use chopsticks, do you like Chinese food and other simple stuff. And I always have to hear about ‘how poor their english is’ and then I console them about how that isn’t true, and perfect english isn’t the point, communication is and blah, blah, blah….
But when you speak Chinese suddenly you are the dumb one at the table speaking in jilted poorly mispronounced words. Some of the foreigner mystique is wiped away and they just treat you like any old person, which I really like. (Also, they are more tolerant of me speaking slow so any games we played which required a speedy answer, I was always allowed to speak slower which gave me more time to work out the answer, heh heh.)
In Fuzhou all the bars and clubs close at 2am, so after being unceremoniously kicked out we headed to the local street corner and found a bevy of stalls selling noodles, seafood and vegetable dishes. These places open in the evening through dawn and sell basically any dish you can think of made from the ingredients laid out in front of the stall. I got a plate of fried noodles while the rest munched on snails, spicy soup and who knows what. Nothing tastes better than 2am street noodles.
The next morning I got up early and headed back to Lin’an. It was a quick trip, only 2 nights, but I have 4 days off every week so I am trying to take advantage of that before the frosty weather really sets in. While it was quite a whirlwind tour I’m glad to have had a taste, both literally and figuratively, of Fuzhou, China.